The Winter Meetings are a once-a-year event that brings together virtually everyone in baseball. Usually, my write ups on this event are about the flurry of signings or trades that occur. However, this year was just a tad different as I attended the meetings as a job seeker. Due to this being the case, I get to write all about how I ran all over the resort meeting people, doing interviews, eating quick meals at overpriced food stands, and worried my butt off as to whether or not I was meeting enough people and doing the right things.
I guess the right place to start with this kind of thing is to set the scene. This year, the Winter Meetings took place down in the Music City: Nashville, Tennessee. A few miles from downtown stands the Gaylord Opryland Resortt, which is the "building" that the meetings occurred in. Rather than refer to it as a building, it may be better to refer to it as a small city, because that's a lot closer to what the resort actually is. From the job fair to the Cascades lobby to the delta island area, the Opryland truly is an impressive structure. However, the general buzz among media and guests seemed to be a general sense of disappointment and hatred. The feeling isn't totally undeserved, as the resort came really without a consensus central location and was incredibly widely spread out. For reference, check out this map. I would have situations where I would have meetings in the Magnolia area and then be called and asked if I could meet in the Cascades. If I were to take a shot at how long it would take to do a complete circle around the resort on one level, I would probably say somewhere around 20 minutes for somebody who was really booking it. For individual events (the job fair, the trade show, the media room, etc) the resort is great as it has plenty of great rooms and wings to host these events, but for something that requires meeting a lot of people at really spontaneous times, the resort left something to be desired.
Now that you've got a bit of an idea of where the meetings were being held, I guess I should dive into my experience at the Winter Meetings. I flew in on Saturday and met my dad at a car rental desk at the Nashville International Airport. After getting the rental car, a Mitsubishi (talk about leaving something to be desired), we hit up I-40 and made our way to the Best Western Suites at Opryland. Rather than go out and explore the city, we ordered in and watched championship Saturday for college football as I did a bit of research for the one interview I knew I had. After a good night's sleep, we got up and drove over towards LP Field, home of the Tennessee Titans. I grew up a Titans fan, and this was my first time in Nashville so I was able to see the Titans play at home for the first time (one of the first things I looked up after finding that the meetings were in Nashville was whether they played at home that Sunday). Although they lost in an ugly fashion, I picked myself up a new Chris Johnson jersey and toured the field, which was incredibly symmetrical and somewhat disappointing. After the game we went around to a local outlet mall and looked around for a belt (which I had forgotten to bring with me) and got to drive around just a little bit.
After using Sunday night to study up again, I got about 20 minutes of sleep heading into my first interview at 9 am on Monday. We took a shuttle out to the Opryland resort, and I panicked a bit as I searched for the Magnolia area (the lack of maps around the resort was somewhat frustrating) where my meeting was to occur. Without disclosing too many details, I thought my first interview went pretty well. However, after that interview I struggled a bit to find the right people to talk to. The advice I had gotten was to talk to the right people, and the analogy given to me was that it was like going up to a girl in a bar. Unfortunately, a more useful analogy is to say it's like going up to a girl in a bar and not being confident in the fact that she's actually a girl, because finding the "right people" to talk to was almost impossible. After sending out a slew of e-mails and meeting up with the contacts I had who had also traveled to Nashville, I had a pretty average rest of the day. I met a couple more people, but was rather disappointed in how the rest of my Monday had turned out.
Things changed on Monday night going into Tuesday. To put it simply, I wound up getting several e-mails about meeting up on Tuesday or Wednesday, and I set up a couple of phone interviews that I will have next week. I showed up at the Opryland on Tuesday feeling as if I could be more relaxed and confident, and I actually wound up getting a call for an interview in Nashville for a position I applied to about 9 weeks ago. For all intents and purposes, Wednesday was pretty much the same. I went in with confidence, got a random call for a meeting, and actually wound up with a couple interviews/meetings on my last day. As far as my job search, that's really all it wound up being: contact a buttload of people via e-mail or phone, talk to as many people as possible, and hopefully your impression/resume is good enough to make people notice you.
Now we get to the fun part: the fact that I was running around a huge resort with 25,000 other baseball people. My dad and I were able to introduce ourselves or talk to all kinds of different baseball people. A list of individuals we saw/met/talked to included, but was not limited to:
Jonathan Mayo (prospects guy)
Craig Calcattera (hardballtalk writer)
It's pretty cool when you get to randomly be waiting outside a bathroom and overhear Ron Washington talking to some guys he knows about Mike Napoli leaving and signing with the Red Sox. It's even more cool when you stop Joe Maddon on a walkway and tell him how much you love how he uses defensive shifts as bluffs against certain hitters (of course he was wearing a flashy shirt and his typical thick, black-framed glasses). I also had a buddy that got to have short conversations with the likes of Scott Boras and Jason McCleod, which I thought was pretty cool. Anyway, talking about my experience and the baseball guys I met has me wanting to talk about baseball, so time for part two!
Part Two: The Baseball Stuff
When the two biggest moves of the meetings are Shane Victorino signing a 3 year/$37+ million dollar deal and Ben Revere being traded for Vance Worley and Trevor May, you know you've run into quite the lackluster meetings from a baseball standpoint. Sure, a lot of things were discussed including a potential 4 team blockbuster involving Asdrubal Cabrera, Trevor Bauer, James Shields, and a group of prospects. However, nothing really big came out of any major trade discussions. We know the Rangers are pushing hard to trade for Upton and sign Zack Greinke, we know the Mariners are reportedly pursuing Josh Hamilton heavily, and we know that the Red Sox are apparently bent on signing "eh" players for lots of money in the short term while they rebuild. With that, time to hand out some "awards" of sorts:
Biggest Winner: Minnesota Twins
I...I can't believe I'm saying it. However, I quite honestly believe it to be true: the Twins have a basic goal and they are going all out to accomplish it. They want to bring in young, effective, power arms to the organization by any means necessary. Going into the meetings, they traded Denard Span for Alex Meyer. While somewhat disappointing simply from the standpoint that I think they could and should have gotten more for Span, this move brings in a guy that either could evolve into a mid-rotation starter or a high-leverage reliever. Later into the meetings, they flipped outfielder Ben Revere to Philadelphia for Vance Worley and Trevor May, adding two more quality arms to the organization. They also extended reliever Jared Burton for two years at 5.5 million with an option for a third season. In 2012, the reliever seemed to have given up on his cutter and went with a fastball/slider/change combo that proved much more effective. The Twins were one of the few teams to come out and accomplish their goals.
Runner Up: San Francisco Giants
The Giants aren't the winners because what they accomplished was locking in the guys they had last year (overpayments in some cases and steals in others). They locked up Jeremy Affeldt prior to the meetings, and they managed to lock in Angel Pagan (4/40) and Marco Scutaro (3/20) for a few years at premium positions. Any time you can reasonably lock up players that might leave, you've had a pretty successful off season. Suddenly I think they look like they could be major darkhorses for guys like Josh Hamilton and Nick Swisher.
Biggest Loser: Scott Boras
Sorry man, but this off season, teams seem to be doing all they can to avoid you. The two biggest Boras clients on the market (Michael Bourn and Edwin Jackson) not only came out without deals, but their former jobs have been taken with the teams they played with last year (B.J. Upton to the Braves and Dan Haren with the Nationals). On top of that, Bourn's list of potential suitors has completely disappeared. Upton in Atlanta, Pagan in San Francisco, Span in Washington, Revere in Philly, Victorino in Boston, and possibly Fowler in Cincinnati. Suddenly the only teams with money to spend and needs in center are Texas and Seattle. However, it appears the Rangers are focusing efforts on Justin Upton and Zack Greinke, and the Mariners appear to be focusing in Josh Hamilton if Texas doesn't re-sign him. Boras seems to have lost a lot of leverage with his biggest client on the market this year, and Edwin Jackson's name came up zero times during the meetings.
Runner Up: Twitter Followers and Fans
How boring and agonizing it was to follow these meetings on twitter. The most exciting thing that occurred was the mention of a possible Diamondbacks blockbuster, but Kevin Towers and company only agreed to some small moves. After the frenzy that was the 2011 meetings, the 2012 edition was rather lackluster from a moves standpoints.
Most perplexing move:
Rockies trade Alex White and Alex Gillingham for Wilton Lopez and a player to be named later. This move just make zero sense from a Rockies standpoint. Right now, it's like they are stuck in a bizarre land somewhere between rebuilding and trying to contend in the near future. This move also doesn't seem to make much sense because of the Rockies' new piggy back approach to their rotation, where starters (like Alex White) with low stamina can throw faster and be more effective over shorter innings and then relievers who can handle more innings can help finish up. Moving two young players for an effective reliever after coming off a terrible season just seems like a lackluster move. The only way this could be great is if the Rockies flip him at the deadline (where he is worth more) for players better than White and Gillingham.
To conclude, the Winter Meetings were great if you were there, but pretty darn boring if you weren't. I'll keep everybody updated on the job search, and hopefully the rest of the off season is more exciting than the meetings were.